Recycling the past

Actor Damiian Lang poses in the backyard of his house, the future venue for his one-man show Glorious Garbage, Good Grief! Langs show is a part of the greater Fringe Festival, which hosts live theater throughout Minneapolis July 30 through August 9.

Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus

Actor Damiian Lang poses in the backyard of his house, the future venue for his one-man show “Glorious Garbage, Good Grief!” Lang’s show is a part of the greater Fringe Festival, which hosts live theater throughout Minneapolis July 30 through August 9.

by Jackie Renzetti

Minnesota native Damiian Mario Lang’s childhood home in Dinkytown will serve as the backdrop of his show for this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival.
Since first performing the show at the Nugget Fringe Festival in January, Lang has taken his piece to four other cities. The show, titled “Glorious Garbage, Good Grief,” details his life growing up with his brother in Dinkytown, where strangers frequently inhabited his house. 
“It was a free-for-all flophouse with no boundaries in the early 1970s in Dinkytown,” Lang said. “Imagine guys getting out of prison and moving into your house, illegal immigrants and con artists and people from other cities, drug addicts and drug dealers, rock and roll wannabes … all moving into your home, like two dozen of them, and then acting as they do.”
For the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the current residents of the house allowed Lang to perform his show outside. The piece will open Thursday at the Dinkytown house.
Lang decided to work on “Glorious Garbage, Good Grief” after finishing a one-man show about his entire life.
“After I did that show, I realized I was really grieving my brother. So I wrote about it,” Lang said. “‘Glorious Garbage’ is me and my brother in the ’70s, growing up together, surviving this crazy house with all these people in it. The grief is basically the past 20 years or so, being pretty disconnected from that brother.”
Lang worked with director Scott Ewing for his first show at the Nugget Fringe Festival in Grass Valley, Calif. Ewing opened his home to Lang for the monthlong rehearsal and development process. Lang has since followed invitations to perform his show elsewhere after each run. 
“Working with Damiian is like trying to put a spider monkey in a fish tank. He has boundless energy and exuberance for life that can’t be contained,” Ewing said. “It has to be experienced.” 
Ewing said Lang’s original draft ran three hours. He said he helped Lang focus his energy by narrowing down the story to the most important points. 
“We wanted it to remain a stream of consciousness sort of energy,” Ewing said. “Damiian’s ultimate goal of doing this is to spark a conversation after the show. We have found that people are opened up to their own story, and that is ultimately one of Damiian’s goals … to bring out people’s story as a method of healing.” 
 Lang plays eight different characters, including family members, a younger version of himself, a professor and a house resident.
“I find safety in revealing the truth,” Lang said. 
In addition to playwriting and performing, Lang also teaches classes, performs as a clown, provides hands on healing and collaborates with others on projects.
Lang said he recalls an interest in acting as a child but didn’t pursue it seriously until college. 
“Mostly, that was my response growing up the way I did. I guess that was my response to all these people living in my house. … Acting and adapting to whatever the situation called for,” Lang said. 
In 1989, Lang wrote his first autobiographical one-man show. Titled “Midnight Mass,” the show detailed his experience of growing up with an alcoholic father. Lang toured the show for six years at high schools and colleges in Minnesota. 
“It totally changed the course of my life — to do that show,” Lang said. “I wasn’t planning on writing that show, but that’s what came out of me. And it was very truthful and, therefore, powerful. And it had a cathartic effect on me.”
Lang said more stories exist outside of the ones within the timeframe of the show. The post-show discussion offers space for a few more stories, he said. 
“If Damiian had his way, it would be never ending, and all of us would be naked in a pool of tears of laughter and joy,” Ewing said.
Lang said he has valued previous post-show discussions, in which people have shared their own stories. 
“If someone can see this show and be inspired to continue to heal themselves and express themselves and recycle their garbage, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. 
“Glorious Garbage, Good Grief”
Where 1129 Sixth St. SE, Minneapolis 
When 7 p.m. Thursday
Cost $15.75